Light Pollution Contributes to Cancer, Says Dark-Sky Association
Everybody knows about the sea turtles, how the night lights of civilization disorient their newly hatched young, luring them inland rather than to the sea, and to their deaths. But light pollution may do more, according to the South Florida chapter of the International Dark-Sky Association, impacting human health and playing a role in breast and prostate cancers.
This isn't entirely new information, but by the look of things, it's not widely known, or at least appreciated, in South Florida. A night landing here shows the 100-mile-long, 30-mile-wide swath of light that is our landscape: a gaudy serpent -- the result of "light that is not being efficiently or completely utilized and is often pointed outwards or upwards and not downwards," as the IDA defines light pollution.
Founded in June 2012, the IDA's local chapter resulted from the chance encounter of chapter President Bryan Bodie, a Delray Beach sales manager and amateur astronomer, and Vice President Eric Vandernoot, who works as coordinator of the FAU observatory. When Bodie visited the observatory in November 2011, talk of stargazing turned to its difficulty in South Florida's nighttime environment, then to the other issues raised by light pollution, which Vandermoot had studied.
"I had been aware of the sea turtles," Bodie told New Times, "and was surprised there was no Dark-Sky group here. And after talking to Eric, I saw the need to educate and communicate."
Light pollution's impact on human health, as Vandernoot explains it, stems from the influence of light on our circadian rhythms, hormonal cycles that regulate body function. The link to breast cancer is that light pollution appears to suppress the normal, nighttime production of the hormone melatonin, which "normally impedes cancer cell growth and can even cause cancer cell death." Other studies have tied light pollution to prostate cancer.